Perfect weather drew nearly 50,000 people to the Florida RV SuperShow Jan. 16-21 at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, a show which was considerably bigger than it had been in several years.
In all, paid attendance was 49,016 – up from 47,600 in 2006 – while 68 dealers set up 1,372 RVs in 129 manufacturers’ displays. The show also featured an expo with 300 suppliers participating and an associated 800-RV consumer rally nearby.
“I heard from manufacturers that the results were everywhere from great to just OK and everything in between,” said Lance Wilson, executive director of the sponsoring Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA). “I saw a lot of motorized vehicles get sold. That doesn’t mean that towables were flat, just that a lot of heavy iron got sold.”
Nevertheless, some manufacturers reported record sales at Tampa, the first major RV show of the winter season, Wilson said.
Monaco, Fleetwood, Country Coach, Damon, National, Tiffin and Carriage brands were on display at the Tampa Show for the first time since 1996 as Tampa-area dealer Lazydays RV Center Inc. – the nation’s largest single-location dealership – participated for the first time since opening a new facility in Seffner three miles away from the fairgrounds and holding its own January show.
“It’s better for the customer coming to the (FRVTA Tampa) show because they are going to see a greater breadth of product than they would have before,” said Jim Sheldon, special assistant to the chairman of Monaco Coach Corp., Coburg, Ore.
Although considered a “manufacturers” show, Lazydays pulling out made it difficult for some manufacturers to participate, Sheldon said.
Sales at the Lazydays exhibit at the Tampa Show ran ahead of 2006 show days at the dealership, according to Stewart Shaffer, Lazydays chief marketing officer. “We sold a bunch of RVs, and we think there will be a lot of ‘bounce-back’ traffic generated from the show,” he said. “We feel we were warmly received by the show organizers and other exhibitors, and that was our goal, to create a better show for everybody.”
The return of so many major brands to the Tampa Show “completes the circle,” Wilson said, adding, “Every major manufacturer was represented. That is good for the consumer.”
Good for dealers and manufacturers too, apparently. “There was more competition, but it was a great show for us,” said Ryan Hollan, sales manager for Harberson Swanston RV-Pasco. “We sold over 30 units, and that was our goal. It was a well-needed boost that will let us gauge how our year is going to go.”
Went Slobbe, sales manager for Leisure Time RV Inc., Titusville, Fla., who personally sold four Roadtrek Class Cs at Tampa, said the customer traffic set a positive tone for 2007 and for the RV industry in general. “I feel a lot better about the RV industry after the show,” Slobbe said. “I couldn’t have said that in December or earlier in January. There definitely was interest in our products in Tampa and I hear through the grapevine that lenders were happy, too.”
Luxury coaches also sold well, according to some manufacturers. Marathon Coach Inc., Coburg, Ore., sold a $1.9 million triple-slide Prevost conversion as well as four other coaches. “That will generate for us somewhere around $8 million,” said Bob Phebus, director of marketing for Marathon’s factory-direct store in Tampa Bay. “Over the last half-dozen years the SuperShow has become a high-line buyer’s show. Buyers show up sometimes even before the show starts.”
Phoebus said that other major bus converters said they’d sold at least one unit at the show.
Sid Johnson, marketing director for Middlebury, Ind.-based Jayco Inc., said that travel trailer sales also did well. “There is a lot of trading up of towables,” Johnson said. “All of those entry-level products we sold the last four to five years, people are starting to buy medium-priced travel trailers and fifth-wheels (to replace them). It will be a good year for towables but it seems to be skewing toward higher end stuff.”
The show featured over $50,000 in entertainment that included clowns, jugglers, face painters, balloon sculpturists, uni-cyclists, mimes and an RV-inspired 80-ton sand sculpture that took seven people four days to build. Also, Camping World Inc. for the first time opened a 6,000-square-foot RV accessories store at the Tampa Show.